COLUMBUS, OHIO: Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old who was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer, only minutes before the verdict of Derek Chauvin’s trial was read out by the jury, on Tuesday, April 20, was a foster child who reportedly got into an altercation with someone else from the foster home moments before her death.
Franklin County Children Services (FCCS) released a statement saying that Bryant, 16, was a foster child who was under the care of the Franklin County Children Services. “This was a tragic incident and FCCS is continuing its involvement with the family throughout this difficult time,” the release says, naming Bryant and saying she was fatally shot in Southeast Columbus. Since then, several of her family members have come forward to reveal details about the deceased teen as well as the incident, many of which have not been confirmed by the police.
Who is Hazel Bryant?
The girl’s aunt, Hazel Bryant, told reporters that her niece had been living in a foster home on the east side of Columbus, where the fatal shooting took place. According to her, several adult women had come to the foster home and started an altercation with the teenager, who had then called police, her biological father as well as her grandmother for help. Then to defend herself, Ma’Khia grabbed a knife. She said Ma’Khia had a knife but alleged she dropped it before being shot multiple times by a Columbus police officer. Hazel was the one who identified Ma’Khia as the victim.
Hazel said that Ma’khia was in front of the house fending off a physical assault when police shot her four times without any warning. She said that she had been told of the events by Ma’Khia’s grandmother and father. “The police are going to lie. I’m so thankful that someone from the family was actually on the scene,” Bryant said before the release of the body-cam footage. “The police are going to lie. The police are going to cover up for themselves. They don’t care. At this point, I feel like they’re just out to kill Black people. They’re not here to protect and serve. That isn’t happening. That’s been over a long time ago. They’re not here to protect and serve. They’re here to kill Black folks.”
She further added: “She was a good kid. She was loving. She was 15 years old. She didn’t deserve to die like a dog in the street.” Explaining the order of events, Hazel said that when the police officers arrived, they saw a knife on the ground and before she could explain herself, they shot her four times in the chest.
Ma’Khia’s family outraged
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Bryant’s great-grandmother Ila compared Ma’Khia’s death to that of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed during a no-knock raid on her apartment last year. “It looks to me like that’s what the police wanted to do, to kill her. I’m just trying to figure out why,” Ila Bryant said. “We have to remember that we should love each other.”
Her mother, Paula Bryant, told 10 WBNS, “She was a very loving, peaceful little girl. She was an honor-roll student, and Makiyah had a motherly nature about her. She promoted peace.” Paula is holding up strong knowing that it’s going to be a long road to justice. “Fly high in heaven baby girl,” Paula posted on social media.
A fundraiser was set up for Ma’Khia on GoFundMe, which read: “This beautiful 16-year-old was shot and killed by the Columbus Police Department after she called the CPD herself for help. She was shot because she had a knife in her hand to protect herself. Those closest to Makhia say she was ‘very smart, loving, & respectful. She was very young & outgoing.’ Makhia Bryant posted videos of herself being a sweet and beautiful young girl on her tiktok.”
Police’s version of Ma’Khia’s shooting
Police said the shooting occurred after officers responded to a 911 call about an attempted stabbing. Body camera footage released by police late Tuesday showed officers pulling up to a chaotic scene where three girls appeared to be in the midst of a brawl. Within just a few seconds, as one of the girls involved in the fight can be seen wielding a knife as she lunges toward another girl, an officer yells, “Get down! Get down!” and then fires his weapon several times. A man yells, “She’s just a f**king kid, man!”
The teen was transported to a nearby hospital, Mount Carmel East, but died of her injuries. The department has contacted the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to review the officer’s use of deadly force. The unidentified officer will be “taken off the street,” interim police chief Michael Woods told reporters at a press conference. “This is a tragic incident for all involved but especially for the family of the female,” Woods said. He said he could not answer a question about what efforts to de-escalate the situation were made apart from the officer firing his gun, saying he had not interviewed the officer involved.